Weightlifting: Awaiting the snorting, stamping weightlifters

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The Independent Online

What's your favourite Olympic sport? For me, it has long been weightlifting. There is one obvious problem with weightlifting of course: It's as dodgy as hell in the drugs' department.

But the trick here is to pretend you are dressed in an extra-tight boiler suit, have covered yourself in white chalk while issuing a few snorting sounds, then stamped a foot or two before summoning every drop of energy to suspend reality way above your head.

In truth, lifting 400kg is easier than pretending weightlifting is clean, but what's a bloke to do?

I love weightlifting, so I've got to take it as it comes, for better or worse.

The only genuine weightlifting superstar I ever interviewed was a wee Turk at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney who kept popping outside for a cigarette. Some people would probably want to ban him for that alone, but it made him very human to me.

And you do get close to weightlifters on the screen because the competition takes place over an evening, with the cameras comfortably close to the athletes. Personalities emerge, either real or imagined, like a soap opera.

It's not just the pageantry and drama which makes weightlifting so enticing though.

For a start, it's wonderfully uncomplicated. There's no tricky camera work needed, everything is up front (apart from the drugs bizzo), and over the years we've even got to peep inside the dressing rooms during competition which can be fascinating.

Stuff all this under-23 (plus-three-older-people) soccer nonsense, tennis and talk of the Olympics including the bastardised forms of rugby and cricket. The Olympics should be about the basics: running, throwing, jumping, swimming and lifting, plus niche sports that don't already dominate the television screens.

And there's nothing so fascinating as seeing sheer human strength in action, leaving us to contemplate how the human frame can hoist such large numbers.

It is so easy to follow and gloriously free of the psychobabble that infests a lot of sport.

What you quickly remember as the Games unfold is how little you know about most sports and how much catching up is required.

We are often at the mercy of the commentators, but in a few days' time we will all be instant experts in fencing, synchronised swimming, rifle shooting and more.

There were wonderful gymnastics moments on the opening weekend, including a bewildering high bar routine by an Italian. He pulled off so many supercharged, contorted twirls on leaving the bar that it seemed he would have to head to terra firma to complete them all. Yet each time he would grab the bar in the nick of time before setting off on another set.

This story was sourced from The New Zealand Herald